A Woman to Know: Oonah Keogh

One of the disadvantages in those days was that women did not socialise with men in lounges of pubs. — Oonah Keogh

One of the disadvantages in those days was that women did not socialise with men in lounges of pubs. —Oonah Keogh

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Oonah grew up with stockbrokers. Her father, Joseph Keogh, had broken barriers when he became the youngest bank manager in Irish history and later worked as a notable broker in the 19th century Irish Stock Exchange.

When his 22-year-old daughter decided she wanted to pursue a career like her father’s, Joseph didn’t hesitate. He immediately offered her a position as a broker in his firm and began advocating on her behalf. The male-dominated industry had never before admitted a woman into the exchange; but, Joseph assured leaders, Oonah was up to the challenge.

In 1925, after a three-week battle of “consternation and sensation,” Oonah became the first-ever woman to enter the Dublin Stock Exchange — and, turns out, the first-ever woman admitted to any stock exchange, ever, in the entire history of the world. A stock exchange wouldn’t admit another woman until 1967, decades after Oonah made her mark in Dublin.

In one interview, she spoke of how difficult it was for her to make inroads in the business:

One of the disadvantages in those days was that women did not socialise with men in lounges of pubs. When the men retired to Jury’s to relax after transacting business I could not accompany them. And even when I went to the races with my father it was the same. He would go to the bar for a drink, I would have to slip off for afternoon tea.

Oonah found great success as a stockbroker for almost two decades. Despite repeated clashes with her father, they continued to work as a team. At one point when he took deathly ill, Oonah secretly took over operations at the firm, hiding her father’s disease from his demanding clients.

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